Finally upgraded to SM9s


What follows is an utter failure to briefly describe the system pictured.

[ RANT about active speakers ]

I have always had an attraction to the studio monitor way of thinking – the amps are chosen by the speaker designer, mated to the driver directly, and perhaps most importantly, come AFTER the crossover (that’s the “Active” part). The result is (usually) excellent driver control, high output capability, and a crazy good value proposition (in addition to the integration they’re not made to audiophile / 1% finishes, which of course saves money.) But for me the real point, beyond technical merits, is fewer opportunities to mangle or editorialize the signal.

So, as you’ve likely heard, monitors (even those without a beryllium tweeter) tend towards revealing rather than ‘beautiful’, which means I went through a lot of DACs / digital sources before I found something I considered listenable. While in my opinion you save a lot of money using active speakers vs. playing the matching passive speaker/cable/amps game, you do need good source. Or one that very carefully elides detail for musicality (for instance I actually preferred the Focal Solo6 overall driven by an Audioquest Dragonfly Red over the Mytek 192).

Not many manufacturers play in both the studio and hi-fi world. Focal do, and they’re an ongoing favourite of mine (actually on both sides). Being vertically integrated with respect to driver manufacturing can’t hurt either. I’ll let you do the arithmetic on what studio monitors equate to what hi-fi models, but let’s just say my bank account is happy to do without the (admittedly gorgeous) Ferrari-red automotive finish.

[ end RANT ]

So I became a PSA customer / cult member when I moved from the Mytek 192 to the DSJ, which, driven via the Bridge II and Roon, was a revelation (feeding the Solo6, at the time, directly using the DSJ volume control) of natural, analog sound and a complete absence of the grain which I was beginning to believe was indelibly etched in all of my CDs. (compared to the system in its current state, the sound was lacking in body and harmonic integrity. - ed.)

Skipping over a lot of USB tweaks (to which the DSJ seemed impervious), Shunyata Power tweaks (no difference in my building with with its dedicated industrial power), and measuring and correction with REW (major differences of course; not easy to do correctly), and some helpful advice from Ted and Paul, I finally added the BHK (the decision was DSJ+BHK vs DSD).

Adding top-spec Tungsram PCC88s blew the doors off the system - it just sounded a lot more like music than I had ever heard. My guess is that the passive output stage of the DSJ makes it unusually susceptible to the very competent / quasi-magical help from the BHK. (the BHK was purchased second-hand, tube age unverified, so initial impressions have been discounted. -ed.)

I recently upgraded, from Focal’s Solo6 (a very capable 2-way, 150w Class-G-powered 7-inch woofer, and 100w Class-AB beryllium tweeter), to the Focal SM9. For those of you not exposed to the studio world, SM9s are the top of the line midfield active studio monitor from Focal. (600w 3-way - 8", 6.5", 1" tweeter, with an 11" passive radiator. This is all based on the glass-foam-glass and beryllium drivers you might be familiar with in their high-end ranges.)

Not surprisingly, I guess, this blew the doors off again. Adding almost an octave was only the half of it. The transparency of this speaker is nuts. Naturally 3-ways, all things being equal, are better than 2-ways (trolls click here), but interestingly this model moves from that 150w Class G amp for the woofer to Class AB (biased toward class A) for all three drivers (400 / 100 / 100).

In my ridiculous space (4000 sq ft w 14’ ceilings) I can’t reach orchestral climaxes uncompressed, particularly with massed chorus. If you listen to this kind of music you might agree that this is the holy grail of reproduction in the home… The SPLs required and the complexity of the signal (all the overtones of 80 voices + 60 instruments in a hall add up to a lot for the speaker to do). They do a pretty credible job with piano recordings like the excellent Volodos Brahms on Sony, give real life to close-miked vocals, and, no accident, sound brilliant on baroque music – 60% of my listening might be Bach Cantatas (Suzuki, Gardiner, Harnoncourt). They sound amazing on pop and studio-produced rock, which are not my listening cuppa, but people like them on this music.

Anyway, I’m embarrassed to have written this much. If you’ve read this far, god help you, you’re an audiophile. Anyway, pics to follow. Perhaps I’ll take better ones. Let me know you if you have questions about the SM9s – they’re something.

Wonderful rant and great story, Chris!

The audiophile world continues to discovery studio treasures. Yet some still thumb their noses. They are missing out. :slight_smile:

I concur, great story! Nice system too. That is a shockingly big space (56,000 cubic feet), It’s more than 30 times the volume of my room, and actually about twice the size of my house! Enjoy that space, I’m jealous!

While I don’t know the history here, I would say some acoustic treatments should be considered. All those hard surfaces would make for a LOT of reverberation (though the shear size of the room could negate some problems). While I can’t see the rest of the basement, a larger rug and some wall treatments would be worth trying. Your concerns with massed chorus could be related to reflections.

I have a 7.1 Maggie system. 3.6 fronts CC3 center, 1.7 sides and MC3 rear. My CC3’s became delaminiated. While they are on the back burner waiting for a “Round Tuit”. I stuck a Mackie HR 824 near field monitor in it’s place. It’s doing a great job on center stage. Back in the day - 1972, while in college I loved doing live recording with reel-to-reel and Sony condenser mics. I had big Altec A7’s powered by home built Dynaco tube amps in my tiny living room.


Anyway, I’m embarrassed to have written this much. If you’ve read this far, god help you, you’re an audiophile. Anyway, pics to follow. Perhaps I’ll take better ones.

Yup, an audiophile--but I spell it 'audiofool'--for over 50 years. embarassed But my system...

…sounds EXCELLENT.

Hey @jeffreybehr… Not sure if i looked at the right thread (anyone else totally confused by the new forum UI?) but it looks like quite a system! I don’t know maggies particularly well – there don’t seem to be too many here in Canada – but i love that big transparent ribbon sound… I lived with Apogee Centaur Majors for a couple years. :slight_smile:

The correct (I believe) link in the new forum.

Quad 2905s. :slight_smile:

Hey @pmotz… The acoustics in the space are actually reasonably well mitigated – i think. While it’s a poured concrete floor, there are many objects strewn about and there isn’t really much reverberation in the space. The ceiling is absorbent material; the walls are cinder block (as you see in the photos) and of course the nearest wall beside the front wall you see is 26’ away. There is a rug in front of the speakers, not visible in the photos.

The industrial heater, about the size of a refrigerator, registers 65 dB (!!) at the listening position when it’s on. so there’s a lot of winter listening (Toronto routinely hits -10c) with coats on so that thing isn’t firing up.

Anyway - this situation is moot as I’m moving to a much more reasonable / normal ~30’ x ~30’ x 13’ studio space upstairs. It will be a live music performance space as well as listening room (and coincidentally I’ll live there). Stay tuned for updates on major acoustics work in that space.

got it. :slight_smile:
What are your listening preferences?

Thanks for the update Chris! Such a huge space behaves differently than a small space, so if it works that’s great. Presume this is a commercial space of some sort. The new space is much more typical, though getting away from square dimensions is probably a good idea.